Chapter Ten: "Hell Hath No Fury, Like a Woman's Scorn."
"Again?" Chifuyu's right eyebrow twitched as she looked at the scheduled battles for the upcoming day in the arena. She was sure she hadn't authorized any fight between the first years, but apparently the Student Council President's signature had been neatly apposed on the digital document granting permission for the battle to take place. She dropped the schedule on the table, ignoring it in favor of keeping an eye out on her new 'creation'. This one wasn't going to end up forgotten in the back of fridge.
She was Chifuyu Orimura! She could cook!
Ichika hummed as he returned from his morning jog, surprised to find his sister awake.
She was awake and wearing an apron.
"Don't look at me like that," she retorted crossly. "I like to cook every now and then," she huffed. "Boiled rice and eggs with mayo isn't something that requires a degree in engineering."
"I…I wasn't going to say anything," he replied softly. "I remember you used to make pickled eggs," he added, with a hopeful undertone.
That nearly broke Chifuyu right there.
She froze, holding her hands against the edge of the kitchen's counter. She didn't know if it was the undertone, the way he had said that, or the fact he actually remembered something as trivial as that. She did remember. She remembered when their parents had passed away, and Ichika had been barely four. She remembered being the one doing the cooking; the pasty-like rice left to overcook, the pickled eggs that tasted horribly…
He hadn't complained once.
She remembered his childish and wide smile, as he held the spoon with his small hand and didn't know how to eat properly. It…something actually broke in her heart —at least, there had to be a reason her eyes watered.
"Big sister? Are you all right?"
She coughed, diverting her gaze. "Yes," she said. "I didn't have the vinegar to pickle the eggs. I'll do it another day."
"Thanks," Ichika replied.
He moved towards the bathroom, probably to shower.
"Ichika," Chifuyu said. Ichika stopped. "I never stopped looking for you. You know that?"
Ichika clenched his right fist. "I know it now," he whispered. "I didn't know it back then," he turned to give her a sorrowful gaze. "And it hurt. It hurt so much…"
Chifuyu hugged him tightly, her eyes shining from unshed tears. "I promise I'll never let you out of my sight again, Ichika. It won't happen again. What they did to you…I'll never let it happen again."
Ichika was the one who pulled out of the hug first. "I still have to shower, big sister Chifuyu."
"And I'd better check the rice before it overcooks…"
They separated then.
The morning lessons went by without a hitch, although the way Cecilia kept looking at him with scorn made Ichika roll his eyes more than once. Once the afternoon came around, and the training ground stood prepped for the 'duel', Chifuyu watched from the rows as the two contestants entered the field.
Ichika didn't have his school uniform on, but neither did he have one of the IS-training uniforms.
He was wearing a military vest with desert-camouflage, a pair of dark green foliage trousers and combat boots.
"Don't you feel underdressed?" he asked, looking towards Cecilia while starting to flex his arms.
Cecilia spluttered. "What are you wearing? You should change in your uniform!"
"No," Ichika deadpanned. "I'm not going to change into a two-piece rubbery swimsuit that looks simply obscene."
Many girls among the rows groaned in despair —they had been looking forward to the match for the eye-candy, certainly not for the battle itself.
Cecilia huffed, bringing her right hand up to touch just under her chin, before moving it to push her blond locks behind her head. "You're so scared of me you need silly and frilly clothing to feel brave, don't you?"
"And you're wearing a swimsuit," Ichika deadpanned. "Aren't you going to be cold during the flight?"
"My IS has air conditioning! All IS have a thermic regulator!" Cecilia exclaimed.
"Mine doesn't," he shrugged. "Waste of space, energy and mostly, it would be always on."
"Enough talking!" Tatenashi exclaimed, suddenly appearing from the front rows, quickly fanning herself with the fan having the word 'Battle!' etched on it. "I want a fair fight of honor and glory! On one side we have Cecilia Alcott, Cadet Representative of Britain!" She gestured with an English Flag colored fan towards her. "While on the other we have Ichika Orimura, my darling Vice-President!"
A bullet materialized from thin air —Ichika's forearm, actually— and hit precisely through the fan Tatenashi had been holding while gesturing at him. The fan ignited, burning brightly as she hastily dropped it.
"Dākutaipu?" Ichika asked.
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Neutral'. Yes, pilot Ichika?
"Did you fire on Tatenashi?"
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Baffled'. I would never. If I did, I would headshot her.
Ichika sighed. He cracked his neck and punched his left open-palmed hand with his right one. "All right!" he roared, "Dākutaipu! Let's burn the world!"
In a flash of light, the Dākutaipu materialized once more. The bulkiness of the past frame remained, but this time the long-range implements were already magnetically bound to the IS' back, while her hands had abnormally changed into long claws.
Cecilia's Blue Tears appeared next, as the blond-haired girl flew away from Ichika, holstering her sniper rifle as her drones began to buzz.
"Poor girl has already lost," Tatenashi sighed. "Poor, poor girl," she shook her head and took a seat next to Chifuyu, fanning herself with a fan that had the kanji for 'Pity' written on it.
Ichika charged ahead.
"Typical of you men," Cecilia growled. "Incapable of even thinking about a bit of strategy beforehand," she took aim and opened fire, her drones shooting at the same time.
Ichika advanced, the Active Inertia Dampener ricocheting the bullets against the frame. He ground his teeth, gazing through the screens at the highlighted weak points of the frame.
"As if I'd let you get close enough to swipe at me, pathetic man!" Cecilia yelled, her thrusters bursting up and bringing her out of range of the claw-like swipe.
Tatenashi bit her lips.
Chifuyu raised an eyebrow. "Why is he not using the long range weaponry? He could strike at her."
"There is one thing of the Dākutaipu that I have learned on my skin," Tatenashi replied, "Nothing is ever discarded…and what you fight against in one battle might be something else in the next one."
Flying to the side, Cecilia opened fire again. The bullets struck the chassis of the IS frame, as the blond-haired girl laughed haughtily at that. "All here? Is this all? Are you just going to float around trying to get a hit on me with your pathetic claws?"
Ichika remained silent. He repeated the swiping motion one last time and just as easily Cecilia avoided it.
"However," Tatenashi continued, "It would be wrong to assume the Dākutaipu as a simple IS with a wide yet limited variety of skills," she closed her eyes. "This is going to hurt to watch, I know it."
"What do you mean?" Chifuyu asked, her voice stern and unbetraying of her internal turmoil.
"When he fought against a close combat IS, he turned to close combat. When he fought against another close combat IS, he increased his defense and improved upon it. When he fought against me, his energy lance wasn't simply aflame, but sparkled with electricity —to disrupt my nanites." She looked at those claw-like hands on the IS.
"Maybe it's because I fought him the most, but I can tell; those aren't claws at the IS' fingers."
She breathed in once as Ichika again, even though he looked pained, swiped once more.
"They're grappling hooks."
Just as she finished saying that, the claws divided and departed forward, each finger separating into a long cable-held projectile that pierced through the Blue Tears main frame and twisted around it. Ichika pulled next as electricity sparked through his hands, rushing along with its strength all the way to Cecilia's IS.
Cecilia Alcott screamed.
Ichika smiled and spun, carrying the Blue Tears IS with the momentum of the swing up in the air before crashing it down on the ground, as the floating long-range drones he had ignited, opening fire —all six of them— with concentrated laser bursts upon the IS' frame.
Tatenashi held an emotionless face, while Chifuyu's clearly showed her shock.
Ichika was laughing.
His grin was wide.
Was that the same boy, her brother, who hoped for pickled eggs that morning?
She felt sick.
Laura Bodewig watched without amusement or scorn. "I warned her," she simply said, remarking it offhandedly to the people around her. "Sooner or later this was bound to happen."
Ichika's frame began to descend, as the grappling hooks detached from the frame bringing with them broken pieces of the Blue Tears IS.
They disappeared in the ever-growing pulsing mass of tendrils, hidden behind the dark frames of the Dākutaipu's mass.
"Are you still alive, Cecilia Alcott?" Ichika asked, raising an eyebrow as he gazed at the dust cloud. "If you are, then stay down. I admit it wasn't much fun, toying with you like that, but Dākutaipu is satisfied now. You don't have to keep dueling anymore."
There was silence.
The dust cloud slowly dispersed. Standing with her broken IS frame, with arcs of electricity still rushing alongside the broken pieces, Cecilia heavily breathed.
"P—Pre—Preposterous," she said, biting on her lower lips. "I'm Cecilia Alcott, of…of the noble Alcott house…and no…no man, no pathetic man, can hope to defeat…to defeat me."
"Your IS' core is going critical," Ichika said. "It's overcharged and bleeding that energy right back into the frame. If you keep on fighting, it might unbalance the core."
"I'm never," Cecilia hissed, "Going to surrender to someone like you!"
She pulled up her rifle, holding it tightly. She had never let go of it, not even through the pain of the electricity or the crashing against the ground. "You men are all the same! Pathetic wastes of space, always whining and trying to gain the attention of women, because alone you can't do anything! You're parasites!"
Ichika exhaled. "You know, right now, Dākutaipu is talking inside my head," he tapped the side of his IS' head-frame, since his form wasn't visible —hidden in the main chassis. "And do you know what she's saying? That the only waste of space in this arena is you."
He brought up his right arm, "You came to this fight hoping to flaunt your grace and power, to humiliate the opponent. You came here thinking that IS are just meant as a sport. Well, let me tell you something 'Mistress', in this world, in this ever-changing world, nothing is as simple as it is."
That was when the hidden equalizers beneath the Blue Tears skirt activated, sending forth a barrage of homing missiles.
The missiles detonated point-blank, sending the Dākutaipu to careen back a few inches.
"Take that!" Cecilia laughed as she said that, "You weren't expecting that, were you? It was all a plan, yes! It was a grand strategy to make you lower your guard!" She laughed harder, her eyes wide and dead. "You should bow before me, you sad excuse of a man! You're a pathetic mongrel worthy only of licking my shoes! That's what you are! Crawl in the dirt like a vermin, you—"
That was when the claws came back, piercing straight through her abdomen and emerging on the other side. Her eyes widened as blood poured out of her mouth.
"U-Uh?" she croaked, before the claws multiplied from within the dust cloud. That was when the sky turned black and the clouds red, as the arena around them disappeared before Cecilia's eyes.
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Fury'. Cerebral Brain Pattern Hacking completed. Link established.
The dust cloud dispersed, revealing upon Cecilia's terrified eyes only the frame of the Dākutaipu. Yet it was colder, darker, it felt different from what she had just fought a moment before.
And the eyes of the frame shone a dark red indeed.
Dākutaipu's requesting Pilot Cecilia input. What do you do when something precious to you is harmed, Pilot Cecilia? What do you do when something precious to you is hurt, Pilot Cecilia? What do you do when something precious to you is bleeding and belittled and cries out in pain?
"W-What is…What are you?"
Dākutaipu's requesting Pilot Cecilia input. Do you know who I am, Pilot Cecilia? Do you know what I am capable of, Pilot Cecilia?
The ground cracked, as the IS' eyes shone even brighter than before, flames burning behind those crimson pupils.
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Condescending'. Of course, you don't know. You are an ignorant child, aren't you? Do not worry, Pilot Cecilia.
The ground broke.
Dākutaipu will correct that mistake.
In the arena, Cecilia's unresponsive body within the IS frame suddenly began to scream. The IS broken bits trashed around, bringing their robotic hands to their robotic head before twisting and pulling apart the Head-Frame of the Blue Tears, starting to tear themselves down piece by piece as the blond-haired girl cried and curled upon herself.
Finally, the IS deactivated by itself.
Ichika reappeared as the dust cloud disappeared, carried away by the wind. He had just a little nick on his forehead —he had hit his head against the forward panel of the IS frame due to the blast, but it was nothing major.
Dākutaipu, of course, begged to differ.
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Worried'. Requesting Pilot Ichika's input. Ambulance might not arrive in time. Suggests Helicopter for transferring…
"Let her go, Dākutaipu," Ichika said.
Dākutaipu remained silent for a moment.
"Dākutaipu…let her go."
Dākutaipu refuses. She will harm pilot Ichika again. Termination is a better—
"Damn it, Dākutaipu! I said to let her go!" Ichika exclaimed, "We can't kill students! Think of the mission!"
Dākutaipu offers permanent crippling disabilities that…
"No! Now let her go!" Ichika hissed.
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Sulky'. I was just doing Pilot Ichika's best interests.
Ichika sighed. "I know that, Dākutaipu…but you can't do this."
Dākutaipu's mood set to 'Repentant'. I understand, Pilot Ichika. Cerebral Hacking Erased. Core Dive cancelled.
With those words, Dākutaipu returned to its closed form —with quite the sulky mood.
Ichika walked the remaining steps towards Cecilia's prone and shivering form. The girl was crying softly, her arms wrapped around herself. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she kept on repeating, cradling her body.
Ichika got down on one knee near her.
"Hey," he said, and gazed in pity as Cecilia's body froze. He removed his jacket, and draped it over her back.
"Here you go. You must feel cold."
Cecilia grabbed onto the cloth as if it was a life jacket, her wide eyes streaming with tears now looking at him.
"What…what was that?" she pitifully whined.
"Something the Alaska treaty banned," Chifuyu's voice was hard as she spoke. She had reached the duo in the arena's crater, her expression a mixture of worry and anger. "It is known that the IS pilots can dive into the computer world as a virtual visualization through the bypass protecting the neural system…at the same time, Hacker to IS' core hacking is possible…thus IS to IS…theoretically, with the correct link…" her eyes hardened on Ichika.
"Dākutaipu used the moment when the hooks connected to send the hacking backdoor worm inside her IS," Ichika replied meekly. "The intention was for her to just cease movement through a glitch in the Passive Inertia Control…but when she fired and I ended up wounded…" he gestured to his forehead. "Let's just say Dākutaipu didn't like that…at all."
"I'm sorry," Cecilia whimpered. She gripped onto Ichika's arm, not letting go. "Y-You tell her I'm sorry, all right? I'm sorry. I didn't mean to. I'm very, very sorry. I promise I won't do it again. Please, you tell her, I don't want to go back in there. I don't want to. Please…"
Ichika grabbed Cecilia's shoulders, before giving her a firm hug. "It's all right," he whispered. "It's all right. I told her not to do it again. She's sorry too."
That was how that battle ended.
Tatenashi fanned herself, the fan reading the Kanji 'Serious Business' as she looked to the sunglass wearing, blond haired woman on a nearby row. Her eyes narrowed.
Natasha Fair looked back towards Tatenashi and grinned.
Tatenashi exhaled. To think the tournament was still far…
It was going to be wonderful, the headache she was going to have soon enough from Uncle Sam.
Well, I'm going to write this here and then copy paste this on the other stories I'll proceed to update as I go. I'm sure a lot of people asked 'Where the hell did Shade go?' Well, as an answer, you can check my profile for a brief one. As a more thorough reply: I just finished correcting my first original story, I just finished correcting the second draft of it, and I'm pretty much set for publishing it myself on Amazon. But before doing that, I told myself 'heck, why not' and sent it to a few literary agents. Either way, I'll get it out. So, now that I'm 'free' from my Original Fiction ordeal -not as easy as it sounds- I'm back for some fanfiction updating.
This is the first, but certainly not the last, of the stories I'll be updating shortly - or within the week.
See you lot soon.